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The Religion of Life

There was never so great a. thought laboring in the breasts of men as now. It almost seems as if what was afore-time spoken fabulously and hieroglyphically, was now spoken plainly, the doctrine, namely, of the indwelling of the Creator in man.
What is the scholar, what is the man for, but for hospitality to every new thought of his time? Have you leisure, power, property, friends? You shall be the asylum and patron of every new thought, every unproven opinion, every untried project which proceeds out of good-will and honest seeking. All the newspapers, all the tongues of to-day will of course defame what is noble, but you who hold not of to-day, not of the times, but of the Everlasting, are to stand for it; and the highest compliment ever received from Heaven is the sending to him its disguised and discredited angels.
—Emerson

The above quotation is one from Emerson's lecture on "The Times," and what is said of the receptivity of the mind of his day can be even more truly said of the popular mind at the present time. The light, that then only a few saw brightly is now shedding its effulgence over the minds of the many. The world is coming to see and understand life as it has never done in the past. Multitudes are reaching out for greater knowledge and understanding. The mysteries of the past are being unfolded. The things that were held secret are being disclosed. Life is in a state of ferment. Never was such mental activity displayed in the past. The world is writing its history—its book of life—with a rapidity that is simply bewildering to him who is not abreast of the times. Destruction and construction go hand in hand; the tearing down of the things that were held sacred in past generations and the building on their ruins of more enduring structures is taking place on every side.

One of the greatest lessons of life perhaps—or the one that may be the hardest to learn—is that there must constantly be new adjustments made by man, both to environment and to his fellow man. Every new ideal brings with it a new work to accomplish, and in the accomplishing of that work there will inevitably be the destruction of all that is no longer essential to the new ends and purposes of the now larger life.

The conservative man views with alarm the overthrow of his cherished ideals. To him the world seems to be going all wrong, and the very foundations of Religion and Morality being destroyed. But this view exists solely because he is not attuned to the new order of things. The evolution now in progress is largely a conscious one. To him who is unconscious of the inner changes, the destruction taking place on the outer plane may seem revolutionary in its effect, but once let him become attuned to the Spirit of Life and, lo! he will see that everything has been working together for good. Mankind is beginning to perceive that law and order obtain throughout God's Universe, and that conformity to this law and order is the one object of life, and so men are consciously using the power that is within them to create a new world, to manifest a kingdom of God on earth, to bring the hidden power and glory into external existence, and so prove that the soul is not dependent on things, but the soul makes things, that the religion of life is disclosed by life itself. Realization comes through action.

We are beginning to perceive, too, that the soul of God and the soul of man are essentially one. As man realizes his relation to the oversoul he will come to understand that he is the creator of the world and the things of the world in which he lives; that the Divine Ideal is written into his life and through his own effort must take form on earth. He is the Word of God, the Logos, seeking to become manifest in the flesh. In him is the light which is to enlighten the world. And all external things must come into conformity to his will. The new heaven he has discovered in his own life is but the plan of the new heaven on the earth. You can never make a new earth without an ideal to pattern it after. It is necessary to perceive the divine pattern in order to create the perfect and complete human expression. First we must have the vision—"where there is no vision the people perish"—then we must bring down this vision to the level of every day—interpret it according to the needs of each succeeding moment—weave it into the life in loving service to our fellow men. He to whom the vision has once come can never wholly forget. The beauty and the glory of it will by degrees transfigure his life. "Old things shall pass away and all things shall become new."

We are in a state of transition wherein there is a seeming conflict between the night of the past and the coming of to-morrow's dawn. To the superficial observer the very foundations of life seem to be shaken. But nothing can pass away but the scaffolding, as it were, of to-day's greater building—the old conditions were only stepping-stones to the new and better ones.

Change is the great law of mental and physical growth. Everything in man's outer life is subject to it; everything in the great outer world responds to this law of change. Nothing is permanent—the mountains grow old and pass away, the valleys are filled up. Change is as inevitable in the mind of man, as it is in the outer world. Mental development only takes place, and is evidenced, through change. Man's ideals must make way for the incoming of greater ideals. What people are pleased to term consistency is often but a superficial barrier erected to obstruct the light of truth. The mind, to be courageous should be unencumbered by authority or traditions of the past, and should not place any limitations upon its own growth. The thing which may prove of incalculable assistance today may, on the morrow, if still held to, prove a mill-stone. Life is a constant process of adjustment to environment, and the helpful thing of one day may become the fatal thing of the next. In order to live one must grow and every stage of growth has its change, and each change is fitting to its place. Let the one who longs for permanency know that the thing desired is unattainable, that a height attained is followed by the vision of still greater heights, that life is forever upward and onward.

What the world needs most to-day is a willingness to change in order to meet the demands of the age, a readjustment from the old, dead things of the past to the vital purposes of the living present. Many people are still living in the graves of the dead thoughts of bygone ages. These thoughts may have met the requirements of the past, but no longer fill the needs of the present. The inevitable results are that we have numerous organizations apparently for the sole purpose of charitable and religious effort, which are lifeless bodies without soul or spirit, sepulchers filled with the phantoms of a dead past and superficial modern conventions. If change is needed anywhere, surely it is needed now among those who think they are in the van of human progress, but who in reality are living in the dark ages, a thousand years behind the times. And yet, I want to say at the same time that the quality of stability is as necessary as that of change. This may seem contradictory, but stability has to do with the soul, while change concerns thoughts, words, and outer forms. Love is as eternal as Life; the world may change and pass away, but Hope abides. The sun may grow cold and lose its light, but Faith lives eternally. While in the inmost recesses of life all is steadfast, on the surface all is change. God never changes, life never changes, truth never changes, but our mental conceptions concerning all three change constantly.

As the mind of man comes in closer touch with the divine in man, it attains to the wider, grander vision, as one who stands on the mountain top is able to view the whole horizon. The mind which has immediate access to God becomes fixed in the eternal principles underlying all life, and there comes to it a greater stability of thought and purpose, changing the outer expression to a thing symmetrically beautiful, increasingly so with each succeeding change, until the very outermost takes on something of the stability and permanency of the inner. Let the mind be founded in the eternal verities of life.
The mind should become so centered in principles which change not, that only the highest ideals would find expression.

A purely intellectual conception of the kingdom that is latent in every soul is an impossible thing. The servant cannot comprehend in all its fullness the Master's will, and intellect is but the servant of the Master. What a man feels is greater than what he thinks, and thoughts and words are but feeble instruments to express the inmost depths of man's feeling. The light that is coming into the world, that is shining over the threshold of the new day, shows that a man to be great should feel after God, and come into vital touch with his fellow man through his deepest and truest feelings. This being the case, the true thought, word, and deed will follow as a natural sequence, and man will thus truly express himself from the center to the circumference of life. The love and adoration of the people of both the past and the present time, for the Christ or the Buddha, have not been for their intellectual conceptions of life, have not been for what they have taught, but rather for what they have revealed and what they have lived. Their loving service to humanity has endeared them more to humanity than any one, or all other things. Loving service comes from what a man feels. The new commandment of life, which is just as new now as it was two thousand years ago, is "that ye love one another," that love is the fulfilling of the law, and that only by it and through it can come the fullness of life.

Let the individual remember that that which is true of the nation or the race holds good equally for himself; that each man epitomizes, as it were, the whole feeling and thought of the world, and in his life passes through every phase that it is possible for the race or the individual to experience. Hence, in the consideration of a religion of life, the personal application is the initial one—perhaps the only one that is of immediate profit. The kingdom of God is brought upon earth through individual effort, and every individual is responsible for its coming to the extent of his knowledge. In fulfilling the law of life, it will be found that it requires far more a development of heart than of intellect.

The intellectual reconstruction of the world is an impossible thing. No matter how clearly men may see the truth, if such truth is held only as an intellectual conception of right, wrongs will be perpetrated by man upon his fellow man regardless even of true thought conceptions. Intellectually, man knows a hundredfold more of the right than he lives, but if a man feels, he lives what he feels. A thousand men have written books on the cruelty and injustice of man to his fellow man, but the love of a Jesus or a Buddha would outweigh in its productiveness of good all the logic and mental reasonings of the thousand. What the world needs more than all else is kindness of heart, good-will, more brightness and hope, more joy and gladness, more faith in mankind and its ideals, and, greatest of all, more love. Through the expression of all these feelings the mind of man would become renewed, quickened, strengthened, made whole, and the world would rejoice in the springtime of a new age, an age wherein "righteousness would cover the face of the earth, as the waters cover the face of the great deep."

The prophets for this new age are needed more than they ever were in the past, because humanity as a whole is more ready to receive a life-giving gospel than ever before. Humanity is hungering and thirsting, and the desire for a fuller life is being everywhere expressed.

What the prophet Emerson believed he saw in his day is being fulfilled in our own. But there is a mightier power at work than Emerson's intellectual conception of life. It is not man's intellect that creates the world, it is not man's intellect that renews life, and not by any thought or reasoning process do we find God. Let the prophets of the new age proclaim not what a man should think, but rather what he should feel. Let them make a new departure, no matter what ridicule or censure they may bring upon themselves from those who do not understand what they are trying to do. The true reformer in every new departure has had to contend with all manner of persecutions, coming even from those to whom he would do the greatest good. Let no obstacle, great or small, stand in the way of this gospel—that what a man feels, makes him what he is. When we look about on every side, and see the dried and withered forms of people, misshapen and shriveled up by their thoughts, because of the lack of vital feeling, we feel constrained to cry out: "Oh, that God would fill the minds of people with the spirit of his love and goodness!"

The mind of man makes its own divisions in religion—its creeds and its dogmas—and of these divisions there seems no end. The soul knows no division—has no sense of separateness or limitation; for it, none of these things exist, because religion—" the homing instinct of the Soul "—is one—a common need, a common impulse among all peoples. It may be summed up in two words—Love and Service. Love is the divine element, service the human expression. Before these two conditions of life every creed shall pass away, because the time is coming when the world will know the truth and enter into its true inheritance—a kingdom of God on earth where peace and good-will reign supreme. The Spirit of Love lives in every life and is ever seeking perfect expression. Through it every thought becomes beautified, through it every ideal is realized. Thought becomes great only as it expresses truly the feeling beneath it, as it is filled with the spirit of love. The mind becomes illumined only as it draws its vitality from the soul-feeling. The barriers which now separate mankind and keep men of different faiths apart, will be forgotten when the real religion of life finds its place in the hearts and minds of mankind. We will have a new symbolism—one which will truly represent a universal religion; and we will no longer, then, worship the symbol, for it will serve only to indicate in an outer way what man knows and believes in his heart. And man's creed, if there be any, will be the recognition of human rights, of justice for all, from the least even unto the greatest. There will be everywhere that fraternal expression of life, too, which will make the brotherhood of man something more than a name—a living, vital thing. There will no longer be any desire to oppress the weak. The strong nations of the earth will lend of their strength for the upbuilding of the weaker. There will no longer be the very rich and consequently there will no longer be the very poor, but each will have enough to supply all mental and physical needs.

The love of the beautiful, too, will become a part of the new religion of life, and the handicraft of the world will be more beautiful because of it. Each man's work will be his religion, and whatever his hand finds to do he will do with the might of a beautiful ideal as well as an earnest purpose. Health, strength, and happiness will be the natural outcome of such a religion—a religion which will dispense with all outworn creeds and empty forms, which will not even ask whether a man be a Roman Catholic or a Protestant, a Jew or a Mohammedan. The balance of true fellowship will so unite its members that each one will become a law unto himself as regards what he thinks. No one will be taken to task or questioned about his beliefs or unbeliefs, because where love is, there is freedom, there is unity, there is peace and satisfaction of life, wherein a man comes into at-one-ment with God and man.

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Charles Brodie Patterson

  • Canadian New Thought author
  • Born in Nova Scotia in 1854 and died on June, 22nd 1917
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